Photographer's Note

A number of cultural notes on this photo: the Shanti Stupa (Peace Pagoda) was built in Japanese style by an organization of Japanese pilgrims to this Buddhist holy site. It is also, however, a popular place for Hindu visitors.

My trip coincided with an event called the Kanwar Yatra, or known to locals mostly as Bol Bum. As I understand it, the point of the festival is to bless local Shiva temples with water from the Ganges. Groups from the villages will travel to the nearest Ganges crossing, all dressed in bright orange, usually t-shirts and swimming trunks.

Once they have collected the Ganga water to return to their village, they must return on foot, no trains or buses. I get the feeling that, for the younger Bol Bum pilgrims, the trip is part responsibility, part vacation, and the event of reaching the river means the vacation part is over. So these groups of pilgrims will visit as many sites as they can before reaching the Ganges, stopping to see Buddhist, Muslim, Sikh and Jain temples for the curiosity.

At Rajgir, some of the Bol Bum men saw that the marble of the stupa was just textured enough that, with a little finesse, you could get a one-rupee coin to stay on the wall. While some of the pilgrims were bowing in prostration, others were pressing the coins and seeing if they would stick. I didn't know if this was a religious ritual or a playful game, but I tried my hand at it and failed.

As I walked away from the stupa, one of the older men from the Bol Bum group turned to me and asked, "Yeh murti kaun hai?" (Who is this statue?) I replied, "Sri Buddha hai." (It's Mr. Buddha.) It may have been a rhetorical religious question, just getting me to say the holy name, or it may have been him admitting that he'd seen so many temples that he forgot which was which. But it was an achievement for me--a question and answer entirely in Hindi.

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Photo Information
  • Copyright: Andrew Wright (bija) (44)
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  • Date Taken: 2011-07-25
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  • Exposure: f/4.3, 1/320
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  • Date Submitted: 2012-03-25 10:38
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